Jeremiah Wolfe (who goes by "Jerry") was born on September 28, 1924, in the in the Big Cove Community of Cherokee, N.C., to Owen and Lucy Ann Davis Wolfe. Wolfe grew up in Sherrill Cove on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Reservation in western North Carolina. The family home sat in the middle of what is now the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Jeremiah Wolfe enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II on July 21, 1943, when he was a sophomore at the Cherokee Boarding School. Upon completion of basic training, Wolfe was sent to southern England. He served aboard the Queen Mary, and worked on an aviation repair vessel and a destroyer escort. On June 6, 1944, he participated in the Allied invasion of Omaha Beach, France on June 6, 1944. As the only Native American in his division, he gained the respect of the other men as he was able to adapt very well to strenuous work from growing up in Great Smoky Mountains region of North Carolina. Wolfe returned home following the D-Day invasion with the rank of 2nd Class Petty Officer/Communicator in charge of 13 enlisted white men. After more training and transfers, Wolfe was sent to the Pacific Theatre, where he witnessed the official declaration of peace signing on board the USS Missouri by the Japanese. He served in the Navy until being honorably discharged on February 1, 1950.
Before his discharge, Wolfe married Juanita Bradley on January 2, 1949. Jeremiah Wolfe was a mason by trade, and was one of the last Cherokee stonecutters. He built fireplaces, walls, and monuments that are considered to be works of art. He retired from working for the federal government in 1985, and worked at the Museum of the Cherokee Indians as a greeter starting in 1987. Wolfe assisted in translating documents into the Cherokee language, as he read and wrote using the Cherokee Syllabary. He spent time in local schools teaching the Cherokee language, and telling stories of the Cherokee people to the school children.
In the spring of 2013, Jeremiah Wolfe was named Beloved Man of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, being the first man to receive this honor in over 200 years. In the spring of 2017, he was bestowed with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, and also received an Honorary Doctorate of Human Letters from Western Carolina University. Jeremiah Wolfe died on March 12, 2018, at the Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C., and was buried in Yellowhill Veterans Cemetery in Cherokee, N.C.
All rights for this interview are held by the State Archives of North Carolina. Educational or other uses for this interview, as defined under the “fair use” provision of Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act, are permitted. Permission to publish this interview (whether in print or online), or to use this interview beyond the “fair use” provision of the Copyright Act, must be obtained from the State Archives of North Carolina Registrar in writing.